Superstorm Sandy Buyout Program Would Offer Storm Victims Full Market Value for Destroyed Homes
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend up to $400 million to buy and demolish homes wrecked by Superstorm Sandy and permanently preserve the land as undeveloped coastline, an idea that received generally positive reviews Monday from New Yorkers in some of the storm's hardest hit communities. "A lot of people need that help," said Long Beach resident Tom Mannion. Homes in the Long Island oceanfront city were inundated with 6 feet or more of water during the height of October's storm.
Mannion described himself as skeptical of government programs, but predicted it will be of interest to many, especially those "people whose houses are wiped out, and they had no insurance. Those people could use that help and I'd like to see them get it." A Cuomo administration spokesman confirmed that the proposal calls for the state to use a portion of the $51 billion disaster relief package approved by Congress last week for the buyouts. The plan, first reported Monday by The New York Times, was presented to federal officials Friday, the spokesman said.
If approved, the program would offer pre-Sandy full market value for homes in the 100-year flood plain substantially damaged by the storm and related flooding. State officials have estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 homeowners might apply. Cuomo earlier raised the buyout proposal and other new measures to protect New York City's underground infrastructure from flooding, which he said has been occurring far more often than once a century. A spokeswoman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said buyouts are just one of the options being considered. Others include moving electric and other critical systems to higher ground and increasing protection for coastlines, Lauren Passalacqua said.
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, described the plans from Cuomo's office as "very preliminary. There's a lot of work to be done. We haven't gotten any details." The Staten Island neighborhood of Oakwood Beach appears to be the most organized and determined to take advantage of the proposal. Joseph Tirone, who leads the neighborhood committee to work toward a buyout, said more than 150 homeowners have indicated they would sell. The group hopes city and state agencies will buy the entire community and allow it to revert to natural wetlands.
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